The Live Bill, just to recap, removes the need for venues to get licences if a) they’re playing unamplified music or b) they’re playing amplified music in a venue that holds fewer than 200 people. And there’s something in there about morris-dancing too.
The best gig I ever went to was in a venue that probably didn’t hold many more than 200. It was at the Wendover Wellhead Inn, in Buckinghamshire. They put on some great bands there but we couldn’t usually go because there was no public transport from Luton and in the 1980s none of us had cars. But we managed to get over there to see Thin White Rope at some point in, I think- judging from this blogged tour diary I’ve just found – in 1991.
I say we – that was me and a group of lads who were in local grunge-type bands. We were into Dinosaur Jr, Buffalo Tom, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Mudhoney, Nirvana of course, that sort of thing. I was also into the whole Manchester scene, but they weren’t. And we were into Thin White Rope, a sort of spaghetti western grunge band from Davis, California, with mariachi horns and a touch of psychedelia. According to wikipedia they were part of the ‘desert rock’ and ‘paisley underground’ sub-genres, neither of which I knew existed until now. The singer Guy Kyser sounds like Gene Pitney with a very sore throat (check out their version of Town without Pity for proof). The tour diary I posted a link to above says that John Peel didn’t like them. Melody Maker loved them, so NME and Sounds ignored them.
The Wellhead Inn still seems to be going – I’ve just found a blog describing it as a ‘pokey little pub in the middle of nowhere’, which is about right. It’s on a winding country road, and I remember we had real trouble finding it. The room where the bands played was packed but I managed to climb onto a foot-high ledge right at the back of the room, pushed up against the wall by a heaving crowd and an amazing, incredible, phenomenal wall of sound. I’ve never been at a gig before or since where I felt like I was transported out of the venue and to a completely different place. The Californian desert, the red-hot sun…. It was a totally transcendental, out-of-the-body experience. We all left the venue absolutely stunned.
The worst gig I ever went was also Thin White Rope. It was on the same tour, at the Marquee and there was tube strike so we drove down and parked inside Regents Park. This time there were just two of us, and we went to a tapas bar beforehand, drank a jug of sangria, and I got a migraine and spent the whole of the gig sitting on the floor holding my head in my hands, wishing someone would decapitate me and stop the pain. They were incredibly loud that night. And then when we got to the car we discovered all the gates were now locked and we drove round and round in circles trying to get out, while I was being violently sick. (Because of the migraine, not too much drink… Incidentally I stopped getting migraines round about the time I became vegan… don’t know if that’s coincidence or not?)
This is Thin White Rope doing Red Sun. There’s another clip of them on Youtube performing it live, where the singer is naked. I think I’d have remembered if he’d been naked at the Wellhead Inn, but three of the lads I was with that night were in a band called Loudmouse, and they did a gig round about the same time at the 33 Arts Centre in Luton (a half-derelict old hat factory where we used to hang out) and Steve the guitarist and Rob the bassist decided to do it without any clothes on. The image still haunts me…